How to take a website global

There are many reasons why you might want to take a website global, introducing its contents to new audiences and translating it into different languages

Monday, 7 June, 2021

It’s easy to forget that the UK represents a tiny fraction of the global economy, hosting less than 0.9 per cent of the world’s population.

Brands and businesses which set up domestically often view this country as their entire target audience, and the same can be true of philanthropic or personal websites.

Yet in truth, there’s often untapped international demand for domestic goods and services.

Your online mindfulness classes might be popular with locals, but they could also help people in other English-speaking nations to feel less stressed and anxious.

Home-made craft items could find loving homes anywhere from Africa to Asia.

And international shipping means ecommerce companies can trade on every continent, while drop shipping and digital downloads are truly universal concepts.

However, ambitions to take a website global require modifying it to suit international audiences.

Otherwise, your polished English-language site could seem as disjointed and amateurish to foreigners as those ubiquitous “Greetings of the Day!!!” spam emails do to us.

If you want to take a website global, there are several key things to consider…

Domain offender

If your website has a .uk top level domain, consider investing in country code TLDs (ccTLDs) across each nation you’re hoping to target.

These ccTLDs perform strongly in domestic search results but are downgraded abroad, so a website will cut little SEO ice beyond our shores.

You could adopt a generic TLD (gTLD) like .com, with country-specific second level domains ( Global brands like Apple and Nike have done this successfully.

No offence intended

It’s easy to cause offence when you’re out of your domestic comfort zone.

Cows are sacred to Hindus, the number 4 is considered unlucky in China, and sarcasm won’t impress Japanese audiences who are largely unfamiliar with the concept.

Take time to understand the expectations of people in each target nation. Ensure any photos on your site will appear relevant overseas, without being obviously British in origin.

Language barrier

Europe is home to around 200 different languages. You can’t cover them all, but equally, don’t assume everyone speaks English, even if it is the world’s most widely-spoken language.

A website available to view in multiple languages will appeal to overseas audiences, ideally with a button or slider on every page allowing people to switch display languages.

A company trading in South America should have a website offering Portuguese (for Brazil) and Spanish (for everywhere else) language options. However, there’s more to it than that…

Translation or transcreation?

Continuing the above example, traditional Portuguese is different from Brazilian Portuguese. Pronunciations and meanings vary, while Brazilian Portuguese is more Anglicised and less formal.

A basic translation service would miss this, whereas transcreation – the art of translating sentiments as well as words – should accurately encapsulate your ethos in other languages.

Transcreation is quite costly, but it incorporates the culture, colloquialisms and character of each target nation. That ensures web copy will appeal in other tongues as much as in English.

Honesty box

Unless your online presence is philanthropic, cost is a key factor when you take a website global. Consider how much it’ll cost to transcreate a site and buy multiple TLDs.

Goods and services should be marketed in each target nation’s domestic currency. You need to bear currency conversion fees, with customers paying for international postage or taxes.

These ought to be clearly indicated at the outset. Nobody wants to reach the final stage of an ecommerce journey and discover ‘hidden’ taxes or charges added to their billing amount.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!